PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinal; tied 3-3.
With his team down 3-1 in the first-round series, Lemaire said he would be content if his team pushed things to a Game 6.
But his young squad has exceeded those expectations.
After twice staving off elimination, the sixth-seeded Wild are on the brink of winning the first playoff series in their history as they meet the third-seeded Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Game 7.
“We’ve accomplished something so far, and we don’t want to let up,” winger Marian Gaborik said after the Wild’s 3-2 overtime victory in Monday’s Game 6.
“We want to go back strong and try to play the best game we’ve ever played.”
A Wild victory over the Northwest Division-winning Avalanche would also mean the past two Stanley Cup champions would be watching the remainder of the playoffs at home.
The Avalanche, the 2001 champions, would join the defending champion Detroit Red Wings as first-round victims to upstart contenders who clawed their way into the postseason. The Central Division champion Red Wings were swept by the seventh-seeded Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
The third-year Wild don’t have time to celebrate their comeback because of the quick turnaround.
Not since the 1950 Stanley Cup finals have Games 6 and 7 of a series been played on consecutive nights. Toronto and Philadelphia will also play Games 6 and 7 on successive days following the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 double-overtime victory on Monday.
The Wild, however, are looking to write a different kind of history.
Of the 193 teams in NHL history that have trailed a series 3-1, only seven have come back to win two games on the road.
But Richard Park kept the Wild’s comeback hopes alive, scoring his second goal of the game 4:22 into the extra session. Both of the scores came on assists from Gaborik, who also added his third goal of the series.
“It says a lot about this team that we didn’t give up,” said Wild winger Antti Laaksonen, who had an assist.
Minnesota also got another stellar performance from goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez made 22 saves in his second career playoff start. He stopped 26 shots in Minnesota’s 3-2 win in Game 5.
But the Avs didn’t even get a shot off in overtime and will play a Game 7 for the fifth straight series, dating to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001.
Colorado goalie Patrick Roy made 20 saves Monday, but allowed three goals for the second straight game. Roy stopped 66 of 69 shots during Games 2-4, including a shutout in Game 3.
The future Hall of Famer doesn’t expect his team to be rattled by the Wild’s comeback.
“We’re going to be in our barn,” Roy said, “and there’s no reason for us not to be confident.”
Colorado clearly missed defenseman Adam Foote in Game 6 after the physical defenseman was a late scratch because of a sore foot. Avalanche coach Tony Granato said Foote was questionable for Game 7.
The winner will face either St. Louis or Vancouver in the conference semifinals. The Blues and Canucks will also play a Game 7 on Tuesday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wild - 95 points; 6th seed. Avalanche - 105 points; 3rd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Gaborik, 3 goals and 5 points; Sergei Zholtok, 4 assists; Filip Kuba, 8 PIM. Avalanche - Sakic, 5 goals; Peter Forsberg, 6 assists; Sakic and Forsberg, 7 points; Rob Blake, 6 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Wild - Power play: 20.0 percent (5 for 25). Penalty killing: 87.0 percent (20 for 23). Avalanche - Power play: 13.0 percent (3 for 23). Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (20 for 25).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 2-1-2. The series was tightly played and low scoring, with Colorado outscoring Minnesota 14-12. Roy went 2-0-2 with a 1.68 GAA in the series.